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Police hope to put brakes on KC’s surge in traffic fatalities

Deadly roads: KC sees surge in fatal traffic crashes

Kansas City is close to 100 traffic fatalities for the year, making it the deadliest in the last 25 years. While speed and distracted driving is to blame for some of the crashes, impaired drivers caused about half of all fatalities. (Video by Robe
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Kansas City is close to 100 traffic fatalities for the year, making it the deadliest in the last 25 years. While speed and distracted driving is to blame for some of the crashes, impaired drivers caused about half of all fatalities. (Video by Robe

Kansas City is close to 100 traffic fatalities for the year, making it the deadliest in the last 25 years.

So far this year, Kansas City has seen 98 traffic fatalities. That’s nearly a 45 percent jump over last year’s total of 68 fatalities.

With the New Year less than two weeks away, Kansas City police urge area drivers to be extra cautious when they get behind the wheel this holiday season.

There’s overwhelming theme among the city’s fatal traffic crashes — people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Each year, impaired drivers account for about half of all the city’s traffic fatalities, said Sgt. Bill Mahoney, the supervisor for accident investigation for the Kansas City Police Department.

“There is no other factor that comes anywhere near that for causation,” he said. “And we’re seeing that again this year.”

Each fatal crash has unique characteristics as to what caused it. Often the cause stems from individual choices.

When it comes to impaired drivers, people oftentimes don’t realize just how drunk they are, or they believe they can make it home safely because it isn’t that far, Mahoney said.

And alcohol isn’t the only impairment.

“We have seen what I believe is a spike in drug impairment,” Mahoney said.

It’s unknown if the increase is because drugs are more prevalent or whether police are being more thorough in their toxicology testing, he said.

“I think there’s a lot more marijuana impairment out there than what people realize,” Mahoney said.

The troubling part is that police are seeing drug impaired driving at all times of day. In comparison, the bulk of alcohol impairment collision occur at night.

The surge in fatal crashes this year has Mahoney urging drivers to first be responsible for themselves, making sure that they make wise decisions behind the wheel.

Then when they are out, he said, drivers need to be aware of those around them and to create some space if someone’s driving erratically.

“Be smart,” Mahoney said. “Don’t drink and drive.

“The worst thing that could happen to you is that you cause the death of another person — you survive and they die,” Mahoney said. “Hopefully, people keep that in mind in the closing weeks of the year and into next year.”

Robert A. Cronkleton: 816-234-4261, @cronkb

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